If Vodaphone’s slogan ‘Power in Your Hands’ defined Egypt’s Arab Spring / Revolution, then ‘Power in The Wrong Hands’ might represent the military coup that just ousted Egypt’s democratically elected government.
The right hand extended into an open palm is an ancient symbol known as the Hamsa or Khamsa that represents ‘power and protection’ and has been adopted across many different religions. Within Islam it’s known as the hand-of-Fatima, in Judaism it’s the hand-of-Miriam and it’s the hand–of-Mary in Christianity.
Technically, my label is a copy from an actual matchbox, except for the text which contradicts the image by suggesting “power is in the wrong hands”. Without referencing my previous Power print, it should be possible to see that the right hand (rather than the wrong hand) would be closed – would be a clenched fist, recognized as the revolutionary symbol for power through solidarity and resistance, as opposed to ‘power through protection’. So despite being an almost exact copy it’s possible to look at the open palm, yet ‘see’ a clenched fist.
As I made this, I associated the red colour with fire, which within the context of my work enables it to assume the identity of a flame, to become another flame amongst all the other flames. However, the symbol of a RED right hand extended into an open palm is itself a very well known symbol, the ‘Lámh Dhearg Uladh’ or ‘Red Hand of Ulster’ and specifically denotes the province of Ulster in Ireland. A very common symbol that’s been widely adopted by everyone from the tourist board to local football teams. But, as both Loyalists and Unionists have also used it extensively, it can also be seen to represent that particular conflict and those divisions within Ulster.
“The blood sacrifice in the red hand’s name has indeed contaminated its image and for many it is the sectarian equivalent of the Nike swoosh – and just as loathsome.” – Declan O’Neill, ‘Hand over fist: The Red Hand of Ulster still has the power to divide Northern Ireland’, The Independent 25:04:2010
In exactly the same way that the Red Hand of Ulster may be seen to represent division and conflict, so may the Khamsa given that it’s been so widely adopted by so many different religions with separate ideologies. Rather than representing or offering ‘power through protection’, from this perspective it looks a lot like an offer of protection in return for power.